Managing a Cheat Day and ‘Raw’ Almonds

Recently by Mark Sisson: Why You Shouldn't Burn More Than 4,000 Calories a Week Through Exercise

We’re finally back in the swing of things. Back to the regular programming. It’s good to shake things up now and then, but there’s really nothing quite like getting back into your normal groove. Last week, I published a Dear Mark on a Tuesday, and it honestly sort of threw me off for the rest of the week. Creature of habit, what can I say.

Speaking of shaking things up, the first of today’s two questions concerns shaking things up with a total binge day – a cheat day wherein you eat all the stuff you haven’t been eating for months, or even years. When that happens, what do you do? How do you prepare? How do you handle the aftermath? I’ll give my advice in the response. And then I talk about “raw” almonds, or almonds that have actually been pasteurized but still get called “raw.” I include a little almond history (all completely true and verifiable by primary sources, of course) as well as my take on “raw” almonds.

Let’s go:

Dear Mark,

Do you have any suggestions for how a (mostly) Primal person can manage days where they just ignore paleo/Primal and instead totally splurge?

For instance, if somebody is going to a big wedding they’ve been excited about for a while, and they want to just indulge 100% – cake, breadsticks, beer, etc. – and simply enjoy themselves with virtually no cares in the world….is there a way to manage this?

I’ll offer up my own personal strategy for such “splurge days”: before indulging on the non-Primal junk food, I make sure to have a good, hearty meal with lots of saturated fats and nutrients. Then comes the splurge. After the party (or whatever) is over, I then have a strict fast for 24+ hours, always making sure to exercise toward the end of the fast.

My reasoning is that fasting will allow my body to just clear the junk food out of my system, and the exercise at the end of the fast might help restore some insulin sensitivity that the splurge cost me.

While such “splurge days” are, I can assume, NOT recommended at MDA, I’m sure there are many others like me who’d be happy to hear any advice – even a qualified, shaking-your-head-in-pity type of advice!

Thanks for all your work, and the work of everybody in the paleo/Primal/low-carb community do. You literally save many, many lives.

God bless!


There’s nothing wrong with letting your hair down every once in awhile. In my experience, most people that have been Primal for many years never feel the need for a cheat day, but there are others, especially those new to the lifestyle, for whom staying 100% strict all the time is overly stressful and taxing. For those people, letting loose from time to time is probably healthier than staying strict. So, once you’ve determined to do it, how to go about it in the healthiest way?

I won’t talk about what not to eat, because you know my stance on that. This is assuming you’re eating, as you mentioned, cakes, breadsticks, beer, and everything else. I’ll just tell you what to do to make the aftermath better on top of what you’re already doing:

Get good sleep the day before.

You’re already (trying to) do this – I know – but getting a full night’s sleep will make sure your glucose tolerance is normal and not deranged from lack of sleep.

Exercise before, and go hard.

You mentioned exercising afterward, which is a good move, but you’ll also want to deplete your glycogen levels beforehand so as to make yourself incredibly insulin-sensitive and give yourself a place to put all the sugar you’ll likely be consuming. Some possible options:

  • Hit up a local CrossFit box for an exhausting WOD.
  • Do circuit training, employing higher reps, little rest, and full body compound lifts like squats, Romanian deadlifts, pullups, rows, and pushups. Three to four sets of 10-12 reps is a good guideline.
  • Try complexes. Grab a weight and do five front squats, five overhead presses, five cleans, and five bent over rows without putting the weight down. That’s one complex. Do five more. Here’s another type of complex.
  • Try pushing a car. Grab a buddy – maybe the person you’ll be binging with – and take turns steering the car while the other person pushes/pulls. Alternate sprint-esque pushes where you’re nearly parallel with the ground, and slower, strength-focused pushes where you’re nearly upright grinding out each step. Do these until you can do them no longer.
  • Hill sprints. Find a steep-ish hill of decent length and sprint up it. Try for ten times. Do pushups and – if possible – pullups in between the sprints.
  • Kettlebell swings. Do as many 20-rep sets in 20 minutes as you can.

And when I say exercise before, I mean right before. Do it no more than a couple hours before you’re set to go out if you can. Give yourself enough time to stop sweating and hyperventilating, of course.

Get some gluten-digesting enzymes.

Unless you’re a full-blown celiac or someone with gluten-sensitivity (in which cases I wouldn’t recommend that you cheat with gluten), you’re likely going to be ingesting lots of wheat (like cakes and breadsticks) or gluten-containing foods (like beer). Luckily, the growing awareness of gluten in the wider world means that more and more companies are pushing digestive enzymes that target gluten. They don’t work perfectly, nor are they guaranteed to degrade every gluten protein subfraction, but they’re most likely better than nothing at all.

Eat high quality where you can.

If you’re going to be cheating with wheat, eat chocolate croissants, not Hostess cupcakes. Eat real ice cream, not non-fat frozen yogurt. Eat the best pizza you can find, not Pizza Hut. Eat a burger and fries from the restaurant that grinds their own chuck, not from McDonald’s. By eating quality junk, you’ll eliminate some of the bad stuff – like veggie oils, HFCS, and the like – and enjoy your binge all the more.

Read the rest of the article

Listen to Lew’s recent podcast with Mark Sisson